Showing posts with label 21st century. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 21st century. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Loud and Proud-Origin of LGBT Pride Parade

Image result for lgbt flagI think I may have mentioned it before, but in case you haven't picked up on it, I'm gay. And unless you've been nestled under a rock, you're probably aware that June is LGBT Pride Month. It's the month of rainbow colored everything, and the month where the community gets together to celebrate the fact that, despite thousands of years of systematic oppression, we're still here. It's a month to celebrate the many advances we've made in the civil rights departments, and a month to remember our dead-- the many, many gay and bisexual men that died in the AIDS epidemic of the 80s and 90s, the victims of the Pulse shooting in Orlando exactly a year ago yesterday, (June 12, 2016, for those who are unaware.) as well as the many, many LGBT people who die from hate related violence each year all around the world.
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The first NY Pride in 1970

And while today's Pride Parades are a (generally) upbeat festival of love and rainbows, the first pride parade in 1970 was in commemoration of the Stonewall Riots, an event that could not be described as upbeat or festive.

The Stonewall Inn in New York City was one of the few establishments in the late 60s that catered to (or even allowed) LGBT people. At the time, it was illegal to serve alcohol to homosexuals. It was also illegal for men to be dancing together, and for women to be wearing less than three pieces of feminine clothing. Stonewall Inn was a place for LGBT people to gather, and they paid the police to look the other way. On June 28, 1969 the police stopped looking the other way.

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Marsha P. Johnson
On that day New York's 'finest' raided the inn, arresting every patron. The arrest turned into a full blown riot when Marsha P. Johnson, an African American drag queen from New Jersey, threw a shot-glass at the wall and shouted 'I got my civil rights!'. Another woman who was also being arrested asked those standing by if they were going to do anything. Soon the crowd was throwing things at the police, and broke into a riot that would last for six days.

This riot was the turning point for the LGBT community. Their passive resistance tactics weren't working, so a group of prominent activists decided to hold a march one year from the Stonewall riots to commemorate the event, and to remind the world that homosexuals existed.

This first march wasn't really much of a parade, it was a serious political protest. The corresponding marches in Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco were much the same. As time went on, the parades grew to be more festive, until the 80s.
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London Pride, 1977
Now this may come as a shock (by which I mean it should be no shock at all), the 80s were hard on the LGBT community. Thousands of gay and bisexual men died from a disease that the US government didn't start to take seriously until it was too late. Pride was a solemn occasion, and the numbers of participants dwindled. Pride was part of a desperate attempt to remind American politicians that LGBT people were still there, and that they were dying in droves.

To this day, a large part of Pride is still protest. There is a more festive atmosphere, but politics is always at the core, and, unless there is some major world wide change in store, it most likely always will be.

Washington Post

CNN has some excellent pictures of some of the first Pride Parades here.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Gnoming for Sport and Profit

'Gnoming' or 'The Traveling Gnome Prank' is when you steal someone's garden gnome, then send them pictures of said gnome from various exotic location. Gnoming started in the seventies, and continues to this day usually as a more or less innocuous prank.

Image may contain: 1 person, standing and outdoorThe first roaming gnomes were fellows by the names of Harry and Charlie. They traveled with human Henry Sunderland to Antarctica in 1977. Charlie was sent down to a research station by the south pole, where he survived a fire, and became a mascot for the researchers there. Upon returning to civilization Sunderland published the photographs of his garden guardian friends, and so a craze began.

After that 'gnoming' became something of a prank. Miscreants would steal garden gnomes from unsuspecting owners, then send the owners pictures of where the gnomes had gone. Many gnomes went on grand world tours with their new friends, and became partial inspiration for the 2001 French film Amelie, which made its way to Broadway in March.

What's more, gnoming became inspiration for a multi-million dollar ad campaign run by Travelocity in the early 2000s. A friendly looking gnome with a big red hat and an English accent promoted to travel company with his testimonials from exotic locales.

Image result for travelocity gnomeGnoming is, for the most part, a lighthearted prank, but some people take it very seriously. There are several organizations, The Garden Gnome Liberation Front being the most popular, dedicated to freeing the clay creatures from their lives of garden ornamenting. These groups steal hundreds of gnomes, often depositing them in forests, or occasionally in large groups in public places. There was also a staged mass gnome suicide in 1998, which I cannot fathom the purpose of.

Gnoming is, essentially, one of the most ridiculous pranks around. It's more or less harmless, even if it is technically against the law.

Christchurch City Library
Daily Mail
The Mirror

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Four Times Switzerland Accidentally Invaded Lichtenstein

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Vaduz Castle

Switzerland is known for being a neutral country-- for staying out of it, and being a safe haven from the rest of the world's warfare. You may think that the Swiss are just nice, like the Canadians of Europe, but after reading about the four times that this inoffensive nation has invaded its tiny neighbor Lichtenstein, I'm beginning to think that the Swiss are neutral because their army is remarkably incompetent.

And yes, you read that correctly. Switzerland has invaded Lichtenstein, not once, not twice, not three times, but FOUR times. Now, admittedly, the Swiss-Lichtenstein border is undefended and largely unmonitored, but crossing into another country is a big deal, especially if you're an army.


To start off the international incidents, in 1968 the Swiss army accidentally attacked a ski resort at Malburn with grenades. Thankfully, no one was hurt.


December 5, 1985 the Swiss were doing some routine missile exercises. It was a dark and stormy night, and their missiles were of poor quality, so they had some pretty good excuses when one of their missiles accidentally landed in Lichtenstein's Bannwald Forest. The missile caused a forest fire, sparking tension with the heavily forested principality. This was the only time with the Lichtenstein Government got a bit testy. The Swiss had to shell out several million Swiss Francs.


In 1992 five soldiers were sent on a training mission to erect a tower in the remote and mountainous town of Triesenberg. The idea was that they would be able to observe planes flying over the Rhine valley from this location. Unfortunately, someone higher up forgot that Triesenberg isn't part of Switzerland. So imagine the surprise of the Swiss when the next door neighbors of the house they had commandeered as a command center came over to politely inquire what the hell they thought they were doing. Embarrassed, the Swiss quickly went back to where they came from.  No damage was done to the property, so the Lichtenstein government wasn't too upset when they got the news.


March 1, 2007 the Swiss army was doing a night training exercise near the Swiss-Lichtenstein border. Now, this border is unguarded, and things can get a bit confusing when mountains are concerned, so is it really surprising that 170 Swiss soldiers accidentally wandered into the small principality in the dark? They were about a mile in before realized they were in the wrong country, and high-tailed it back to Switzerland. The Swiss government informed Lichtenstein the next day, and offered an apology.

An apology Lichtenstein took very well. The Lichtenstein government is quoted as having said "It's not like they invaded with attack helicopters." and "These things happen."

So far, Lichtenstein has been remarkably gracious about the Swiss repeatedly blundering over their borders, though that may be because Lichtenstein has no standing army of its own, and relies on Switzerland for protection. However, in Switzerland these incidents are routinely held up as examples of why Switzerland should disband its army.